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Doshi STEM Institute to close, Nassau BOCES officials say

Melville resident Jennifer Boudin speaks to the Nassau

Melville resident Jennifer Boudin speaks to the Nassau BOCES board on Thursday, May 5, 2016. The board voted Thursday to close the Doshi STEM Institute. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Nassau BOCES officials decided to close the Doshi STEM Institute and accepted a $1.5 million donation to keep open the Long Island High School for the Arts during a special meeting Thursday.

The BOCES governing board unanimously approved three resolutions in its Garden City headquarters, among them was to end in June the struggling science and technology school.

“The Doshi STEM Institute shall cease operation in all respects, and effective July 1, 2016, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services of Nassau County will accept no new or returning students,” said Susan Bergtraum, the board’s vice president, reading from the resolution just before the 2 p.m. vote.

Doshi STEM, which opened three years ago, was to be Long Island first competitive, specialized science school. But it ran a deficit of $1 million and had an enrollment of only 46 students — one quarter of the students needed to be financially viable.

The students were given the opportunity to pursue challenging classes in engineering, research, robotics, math, physics, chemistry and biology alongside experts from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“There are only a few more weeks left in the school year and, as parents, we want to know what options are available for our children who no longer have a school,” said Barbara Ford.

Ford, who lives in the Uniondale school district, said she wants to be sure her daughter, Amanda, a junior at the Doshi STEM Institute, continues her science education.

The Long Island High School for the Arts, by contrast, will remain open, officials said, thanks to a $1 million cash infusion from The Joel Foundation, the charitable organization of Grammy Award-winning musician Billy Joel.

He asked BOCES trustees to keep the 43-year-old arts school open for at least three years. In addition to the initial $1 million to fund the 2016-17 school budget, the Joel Foundation committed another $500,000, to be paid out over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years. Nassau BOCES board members unanimously approved a resolution calling for the continuation of the arts school and another one that accepts the Joel donation.

“It is a bittersweet day,” Nassau BOCES Superintendent Robert Dillon said. “We are very happy for LIHSA students but we are very disappointed for our STEM students. But I am confident there will be rigorous programing for them to transition to.”

Lydia Begley, associate superintendent of Nassau BOCES, said officials are in talks to relocate the STEM program to the Malverne school district, from where many of the students come. Malverne would host the program, with BOCES support, and accept students from other districts like Hempstead and Uniondale. Three teachers in the STEM Institute would need to be transitioned into those districts as well, officials said.

Both the Doshi STEM Institute and LIHSA are located on the BOCES campus on Cold Spring Road in Syosset. They have a combined operating budget of about $3 million. Districts paid $13,195 per student in tuition to Nassau BOCES to send pupils to either school for a half-day of classes, five days each week.

The two schools had struggled financially for years because enrollment had been low.

More than a year ago, students and their families made emotional pleas to BOCES officials to keep both the arts and the STEM schools open. A social media campaign and petition drive brought about 150 people to a March 2015 board meeting.

The arts school has an enrollment of 94 students, with 84 more accepted and 19 auditioning for the 2016-17 academic year.

Ford, the Uniondale mom, said her oldest daughter is an alum of LIHSA and was happy that program would be able to continue.

“It’s just unfortunate that these STEM students could not continue in their school. Many of them made sacrifices to be in that program.”

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